Sports

The Gee-Gees play at the net has cost them dearly this season. Photo:Parker Townes/The Fulcrum

McGill embarrasses women’s volleyball team on home court

In what has become a lost season for the Gee-Gees women’s volleyball squad, the team hit the court at Montpetit Hall on Sunday afternoon desperately looking for their first win of the season. 

Coming in with a record of 0-14, Ottawa faced the also struggling McGill Martlets, who sat just in front of the Gees in the RSEQ standings with a 4-9 record.

It was clear from the get-go that the Martlets were in a different league than the Gee-Gees. McGill’s game plan was both simple and effective: All they did was throw the ball back to Ottawa’s side without doing any complicated plays and let the confidence-lacking Gee-Gees hurt themselves by trying to make complicated plays.

This worked so well that Gee-Gees head coach Lionel Woods was forced to call a timeout with his team down 11-4, and again down 18-8 before the Martlets took the set 25-13.

The Gee-Gees struggles were evident in the first set and players were often out of position. Communication seemed to be non-existent and the Martlets managed to confuse the Gees to a point where whole areas of the court were open for a hard return. Often times, the Gees totally missed the ball as it was coming at them, made a pass to nowhere, or just glazed at a ball heading clearly out of play.    

To open the second set, the Gee-Gees were lucky enough for McGill’s Claire Vercheval to miss her serve to take a 1-0 lead, but that lead was very short-lived as McGill was soon back up 3-1. The second set showed just how much the Gee-Gees struggle at the net, and on many occasions Emily Lenton, Dana Bulloch, and Milana Grahovac failed to block or return the ball.

McGill was, however, a little less dominating in the second set and the Gees managed to stick around, keeping pace early and only losing 9-6. But that was the closest they’d get to the Martlets beyond that point, as McGill quickly doubled them up three plays later.

If there was one positive takeaway for the Gee-Gees, it was the tunes playing over the PA system — the DJ did not shy away from playing some Blink-182, All American Rejects and Sum 41.

On the court, things weren’t going any better than they were earlier in the set as McGill grabbed a commending 18-9 lead over the horses. Eventually, McGill took the set by 10, winning 25-15. 

The third set opened with Gees’ sophomore Robin Melnick missing her serve and giving McGill a 1-0 lead. Then a couple of plays later, the Martlets overpowered Nieve Seguin on the backcourt when she tried to dive for the ball but was out of reach.

McGill didn’t let their foot off the gas as they kept hammering the ball to areas where the Gee-Gees weren’t or took advantage of bonehead plays from Ottawa players. The Gees were able to stay within striking distance for a while, only 13-9 at a point, but then went back to their old habits. McGill dropped five points in a row and all the sudden things looked very bleak as the Martlets were up 18-9 and the Gees were staring another sweep straight in the face.

In the end, the game lasted less than an hour as the Martlets took the set 25-13 and the game 3-0 in a terrible performance on home court by the Gee-Gees. 

Following the game, head coach Lionel Woods was very honest and selective with his words when asked about what it would take for his team to win a game.

“Right now, we’ve put ourselves in a place where winning the match is not the most important thing,” said Woods. “We’ve been out of the playoffs for a long time now so we’re trying to mix development and opportunities for some of our vets to play it out.” 

“The honest answer is probably not this year, we got to find the answer to what we’ve been missing to get us back to top five in the country and it’s clearly not right now in this group.”

“We’re trying to accomplish other things, such as the development of our younger players,” added Woods. “Our older players haven’t done anything wrong, we just haven’t been able to put it together, so they’re getting their stints as well and right now maybe that is causing us to be more disjointed than we normally would be, so our situation is not really helping us go after wins.“

For Woods, the kids have been aright and performing at an expected level.

“Our four rookies have just had a chance to be on the floor a lot and each one of them keeps showing individual changes every week in a good direction so I think there is a bright future, but we got to figure out what a group of people has got to do to win.”

How much losing is too much losing?

Going back to last season, the Gee-Gees have lost 26 games in a row. Ever since the teams transfer to the RSEQ from the OUA in 2016-17, Ottawa hasn’t made the playoffs. On Sunday afternoon, it was evident that the Gees and Martlets were leagues apart in terms of talent. As has been the case many times this season, the Gee-Gees were overpowered in straight sets.

But what can be done? Would a change in management be the answer? 

Most likely not. If anything, Lionel Woods is the right man to right this ship, and after all, he’s been at the top of the women’s volleyball team since 1992 and has won multiple league championships. 

One thing that’s clear on the court is that the talent is just not quite there compared to years past and changes will have to be made if the U of O is to have a competitive women’s volleyball team in the future.

Patience will need to be of the essence as the Gee-Gees keep trying to rebuild through recruiting. One of the clear disadvantages the Gee-Gees do have is that their player pool is very limited across the Ottawa River and they must count on younger players, mostly coming straight out of high school, whereas the competition in RSEQ counts on mostly older players coming out of the CEGEP circuit.   

What’s next for the grey and garnet?

The Gee-Gees will face the Martlets in Montreal on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Gees will be back in the capital on Sunday when they take on the Laval Rouge & Or on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Women’s volleyball by the numbers

  • Running through the six: The Gees have only won six sets this season
  • Digging with Plastic shovels: The Gees average a league-worst 10,31 digs per game average
  • Killer Queen: Kara Hays is forth in RSEQ with 2.76 kills per game

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